Posted: 07 Oct 2012 06:00 AM PDT
“It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired.
Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21. How do these words help us to understand how biblical inspiration works?
In the whole question regarding inspiration, people sometimes get obsessed with what are often deemed as problematic texts. Consider, for example, the wording of the inscription above Jesus’ cross as depicted in the Gospels. According toMatthew 27:37, it said, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”; according to Mark 15:26, “THE KING OF THE JEWS”; according to Luke 23:38, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” How are we to understand these differences?
As the Bible says, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” and is trustworthy; yet, we are given different accounts of the inscription on Jesus’ cross. These two points together can give us insight into the way in which inspiration works. This case shows that inspiration permits different expressions of an idea or event to the extent that the expressions adequatelydepict it. Where a general approximation is an adequate expression, as in the inscriptions on the cross, inspiration accommodates it. On the other hand, where specificity is required, as in 1 Kings 6:1, inspiration provides it and should be accepted as such.
Compare Acts 1:18 and Matthew 27:5. In what ways do these accounts of Judas’ death seem to differ?
For a long time, critics of the Bible claimed that these verses gave conflicting accounts of Judas’ death. However, recent research has shown that the word translated as “falling headlong” in Acts 1:18, also means “swelling up.” Therefore, it’s likely that, after hanging himself, Judas was not discovered until his corpse had swelled up, which had caused his guts to burst open. The point is, what at first seemed to be contradictory is now shown not to be. The vast majority of the Bible is not problematic. In the few places where some questions remain about apparent “errors” or “contradictions,” the prudent attitude would be humility. Who knows how many people have made a shipwreck of faith by focusing on “problem” texts. We have not been called to stand in judgment over the Word; we have been called, instead, to obey it.